Military personnel from the World War II era are widely known as ‘the greatest generation’ for their valor and honor in service during the conflicts they faced.
One veteran at the Ardmore Veterans Center, 102-year-old Harlan “Zeke” Collins, was honored Friday with a pinning ceremony with Aspire Home Care and representatives from American Legion posts in Ada and Tishomingo.
Hayden Woods, a Navy veteran and member of American Legion Post 164 out of Tishomingo, said the pinning ceremony is a way of showing appreciation to those who served.
“Unfortunately there aren’t many WWII veterans with us today,” Woods said. “They went a long way to protect our country.”
Woods said Collins served aboard an Annapolis-class ship of the type that would have carried atomic bombs.
“They lost about 80 percent of the sailors. They did a lot of things to bring an end to a war,” Woods said.
The recreation hall at the Ardmore Veterans Center was decorated with balloons and filled with veterans, staff and community members, including some of Collins’ family. Members of the Chickasaw Nation Honor Guard presented the colors.  Nick Martinez, a junior in the Ardmore High School band, played the trumpet for the Honor Guard.
Woods presented two pins to Collins, one flag pin on behalf of Aspire Home Care and one from the American Legion Post 164 in Tishomingo for dedicated and honorable service.
After being presented with the pins, Collins thanked Woods for the honor.
Dr. Rich Putnam, Army paratrooper and chaplain of the American Legion Post 72 in Ada, said it was an honor to reward Collins.
“We don’t get to reward folks like Mr. Collins often enough,” Putnam said. “We run into special veterans a lot, but Mr. Collins is one of these extra special veterans we run into from time to time.”
Putnam said he and Woods teamed up to honor those who served before them.
“They paved the way for us to be free the way we are,” Putnam said. “My concern that is with the heroism and the sacrifices and the efforts put forth to make this land so free, we may forget what it took to make it this way.”
Putnam said he admires Collins.
“Those guys protected us from the real bad guys,” Putnam said.
Aspire Home Care, the hospice agency supporting Collins and his family over the past several weeks, often works with veterans and their families, said community liaison Amy Storts.
“We didn’t want to wait until Veterans Day to honor Mr. Collins,” Storts said.
She and several others teared up while talking about Collins during the ceremony.
“He is such a sweet, humble man. He doesn’t like to talk much about his service,” Storts said.
Collins has lived at the Ardmore Veterans Center for several years, He has recently lost his vision but, despite that, he has touched a lot of lives, Storts said. “It’s a special honor for our team to thank our veterans,” Storts said. “We want to help them stay comfortable and relaxed while keeping their dignity.”
Collins enjoyed a cupcake and spoke with several of his family members and other veterans after the presentation.